Monday, January 14, 2013

Survival of the Lit-ist


Usually, hurricane-grade winds take their Thanksgiving vacation in the San Gabriel Valley. This year, when they failed to show, I thought we might be in for a bit of luck. But no, they were just spending extra time at the gym, beefing up their quads and abs.

And now in January, these guys have pulled into town, sometimes with advance reservations but usually just showing up like bad relations, plowing the Winnebago through the hedge, pounding on the front door in the middle of the night, a bottle of Rebel Yell in one hand and a bag of dirty laundry in the other.

What's the good thing about lying wide awake at 2 a.m.? What's the good thing about listening to the wind test your home's questionable insulation? What's the good thing about wondering whether that's dog gas or gas-gas you smell? What's the good thing about wondering which gas might prove more lethal?

The good thing is, you reach for the classics. The work you've always vowed to read before you die.

You know the ones I'm talking about -- Finnegan's Wake, Remembrance of Things Past, and anything set in a Russian prison camp.

As these could be your last moments on earth, might as well keep an old promise.

Last night, given the specific occasion, I chose Wuthering Heights.

I've only tackled Wuthering Heights from a cinematic perspective. i.e., I've seen the movie, sort of. Two or three different versions, sort of. And in every case, I've found Wuthering Heights similar to those dramatic love affairs we've all had (two is plenty, five indicates some therapy might be in order), where the intensity at the outset wears thin by the middle, and grows so tiresome you find a way to cheat and adjust the finish line.

On the night in question, and that would be the night of last, I left the bed, took my icy toes to the bookcase and pulled out a copy of Wuthering Heights.

Let me say this -- never ever doubt the classics. Half way into the second paragraph, I was sleeping like a baby.

Which just goes to prove, genius takes many forms, but most of all, it brings us what we need when we need it.

I don't know when circumstances will drive me to that third paragraph, but I take comfort in the fact it's there, waiting.

43 comments:

  1. And I worried about not being well read.

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  2. I did read it, once, all the way through. Maybe for a class?

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  3. “I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I'm going to tell it - but take care not to smile at any part of it.”

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  4. I came to this book late, but it was a wild ride. I loved it, yet cannot remember the story. Something about a colored boy and a white girl...

    Was it the thought that no matter how much your house was shaking, it was calm in comparison to the Yorkshire Moors that sent you to sleep? Did you dream of Cathy's ghost knocking on the window?

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  5. I trust you're alive? I'm sure the storm must have been quite frightening and serious, but I have to tell you, I laughed all the way through your post. Classics can indeed be useful.

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  6. One of my daughters read it for an AP class.. she loved it, then again, she loved every single classic!. Good to know you have something non habit forming that will get you to sleep! lol.

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  7. I'd better buy a classic for my bookshelf in case of such emergencies. So did you ever figure out which gas it was?

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  8. Yes, hurricane must have been scary... but I'm with Georgia, your post make me laugh!

    I don't read the book "Wuthering Heights", (O morro dos ventos uivantes" in Portuguese), but I saw the movie several times. I remember so well Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and the fury of the wind... Great classic film in B&W.
    I would like to rent it to review one more time. Thanks for remember me.

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  9. I love Wuthering Heights....my mother took me to see one of the movie versions when I was 8 then she took me to see a re-release of Gone With the Wind .....spent most of my life looking for a northerner who didn't give a damn and you can imagine the trouble that's got me in.......loved the book and when Kate Bush sang the song it was meeeee I was Cathyyyy......fascinating fact: I knitted the wooly arm warmers worn in the recent Andrea Arnold version!!!!

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  10. I love Wuthering Heights....my mother took me to see one of the movie versions when I was 8 then she took me to see a re-release of Gone With the Wind .....spent most of my life looking for a northerner who didn't give a damn and you can imagine the trouble that's got me in.......loved the book and when Kate Bush sang the song it was meeeee I was Cathyyyy......fascinating fact: I knitted the wooly arm warmers worn in the recent Andrea Arnold version!!!!

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  11. I'm guessing Albert was under the bed? I have a lazy eye (which I didn't know about until just a few years ago) so I find reading interminable classics frustrating which eventually makes me wonder why everyone is spending so much time doing everything wrong, which invariably leads me to thinking about my life which just gets my mind racing. You get the picture. Luckily, when it's hurricane season I just wait for the low pressure cell to move in and then I sleep like the dead.

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  12. I'd rather walk buck naked through that hurricane than ever pick up Finnegan's Wake again.

    GG

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  13. That house looks so English, I wondered if it was a Baillie Scott in Cambridge. Then I noticed the palm trees. If this house ever comes on sale, let me know.

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  14. I enjoyed reading Wuthering Heights. Sadism at it's best. I didn't enjoy reading the sermons of Cotten Mather - I blame the sadistic professor for that forced march. I might enjoy reading Walden's Pond. I did enjoy reading your take on storms.

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  15. Young at Heart: Yes! Kate Bush tells the story best.

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  16. Looking back, I'm astounded that I read as many novels as I did - for fun mind you, not for school (or wind-induced insomnia).

    These days the possibility of my reading a novel, any novel, all the way through is remote.

    "Infinite Jest" just ain't gonna happen.

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  17. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Old Man and the Sea. Try them.

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  18. I did see KB mention Clive James on FB and got Unreliable Memoirs. Funniest. book. ever.

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  19. Oh my gawd...I persevered through Wuthering Heights right to the bitter end, hoping against hope that something - anything - exciting would happen. Same thing with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Painful.

    We had a couple of days without much to speak of in the wind department. Today...I feel like I should tether myself to the porch before stepping off into the yard for fear that I'll be blown away, wee wisp of a thing that I am. *snort*

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  20. I like anon's quote from WH, "But take care not to smile at any part of it." 1) as if there were any danger, and 2) Zzzzzz.

    You've all given excellent recommendations for coma-inducing novels, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich has been on my list for decades.

    Bellis, it's off Grand, down a private lane. I'll show you sometime.

    Paula, yes, he's at the opposite end of the spectrum. You don't happen to remember which CJ I recommended, do you?

    And YAH, care to elaborate? And, hint, I really would love some arm warmers.

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  21. Hey, you must know my father's family. I moved enough times that they can't find me now. And my gate is sturdy enough to hopefully repel the Winnebago attack.

    I read Wuthering Heights with Ryan when he read it in 10th grade English - or was it 9th? I forget. Boy, ol' Heathcliff, now he was a charmer, eh? We've not had that type of wind attack, but my generator is nearly installed, and I'm ready!

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  22. You didn't recommend but I got that and Cultural Amnesia. When I get them used it's almost cheaper than driving to the y-berry and then I can take my time cuz I don't want it the fun to end.

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  23. ahh. That was a fine read! I love that house.

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  24. Karin says I should post my thoughts.. so her goes.. I loved A Day in the Life of Ivan Denislovich... If I remember, i think I may have shed a tear... Want to go to sleep, read Shakespeare, I just couldn't get him in h.s. that being said, my husband loved Shakespeare so u can imagine all the plays I sat through through our dating... loved the comedies, the more serious- I think I fell asleep.

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  25. Wallace Stegner: "Angle of Repose," a well-named snoozer of a book. I think it won a Pulitzer or a Nobel Peace Prize or something.

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  26. I've never read WH...but I have seen the Lawrence Olivier version of the movie numerous times...
    What could be better on a cold wintry night than English angst run amok on the pages of a good old classic? Well...when I'm a bit on the stressed side...the more mindless the read...the better!!!

    Sorry it's been so windy down there...it's been quite clear and still up here...but damned cold!!!

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  27. Marjie, they'll have to plow through ten acres to find you.

    KBF, I think any worthwhile piece of writing or visual art stirs the soul, either to love or hate. Else it's not wuthering our consciousness, it's just -- nice. I will attempt to read ADITLOID.

    I will avoid, however, Angle of Repose.

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  28. Also, if a tree falls on your house and kills you, people will be so impressed when they see what yu were reading before you reached your demise.

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  29. Oh Margaret, I think you've just handed me my next post on a platter.

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  30. I like that house, but bummer to hear about the winds. I used to have a cassette tape to help me sleep that had waves on one side and howling winds outside a snowed-in cabin on the other. Not sure how I manage to sleep to the sound of wind. (Now I need complete silence.) Never read Wuthering Heights or Finnegan's Wake or many of the other classics I should have read. I doubt I'll read them now; too many other books waiting patiently in line that I know I'll enjoy. I did read Angle of Repose years ago, but if asked to tweet a book report about it I couldn't.

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  31. My favorite version of Wuthering Heights is Monty Python's semaphore translation.

    I look forward to the riff on Margaret rip post.
    Riposte?

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  32. Karin, your post and the resulting comments had me laughing so hard.
    I'm with Desiree; my fav version of WH is also the "Python translation".
    And Petrea, yes, Angle of Repose is a real snoozer. Stegner is a big deal around here. The local literary center has some of his personal belongings, his typewriter, his chair, some of his pencils, and who knows what else.

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  33. Perhaps he was of his time, Ms. M. He did describe the pioneer life clearly, and his winter scenes made me cold.

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  34. And the advantage of the storm to the rest of us is that we get to read this wonderful tale. Also, I can never think of Wuthering Heights without thinking of Monty Python doing a version with semaphores.

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  35. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqiUGjghlzU

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  36. And here I thought Semaphore was a new kind of girl scout cookie. Semaphore! A delightful blend of peanut butter, chocolate, mint, and graham cracker.

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  37. OK, y'all have driven me to WH by way of Monty P on semaphores. I was finally able to pull myself away from the vorpel bunny. Thank you all, my life would have been incomplete without it. Is there a longer version of, say, Remembrance of Things Past perhaps?

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  38. It's a shame, really. I can fall asleep reading the first page of any book that has paragraphs half a page long. Many, most, whatever, of these writers did have a lot to say, it just isn't accessible to most of us unless we have some way of knowing how to look for it. It's the same with classical music, I think.

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  39. I gotta stack to read before they cover me over that's for sure.

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  40. I went to look at the semaphore version and found out 3 more friends had unfriended me. At this rate I'll be in the red before too long.

    Along with a local professor, Terry Jones wrote an erudite history book, "Who Murdered Chaucer? A medieval Mystery," and while their talk given here was witty and I got a personally autographed edition of the book, it's definitely a snooze fest. I'm guess I'm going to hold onto it - just in case (by the by, the bishop did it).

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  41. I'm also begining to feel like ! could sleep like a baby at the moment.

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  42. I heard so many raves about that book before I read it--"Oh, I hate Romanticism, but I love Wuthering Heights." All I can say is that I found it a bit less bad than most books of its time and before, which is still pretty dull. And I was a budding Romanticist.

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